The One Cancer Side Effect I Love

Going through cancer is like being on a never-ending rollercoaster in the dark. You never know what drop or curve is coming next. I’ve often written and spoken about how devastating the physical changes are and how destructive the mental changes are. Yet, I realized something a few days ago that is a surprisingly positive side effect – my attitude changed.

There isn’t a day that goes by without missing my pre-cancer body. Every morning I wake up, I immediately curse it because I can no longer count on it to be healthy or strong.

Painsomnia is my nightly companion.

My cortisol belly and non-estrogen-producing body horrify me by their immense size.

The physical strength I used to possess is gone.

Nails break, eyebrows are filled in with brow gel on the daily, and lashes are no longer thick.

Fibromyalgia and chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy are the exes who won’t leave me alone.

Lower back pain did temporarily go away after two facet injections last year but now I need a third one.

This body of mine continues to bankrupt me financially and mentally. There is so much out of my control, except my assertive mind. I will no longer tolerate bullshit or being disrespected – personally or professionally. I’ve mentioned this before but there’s a difference now. I’ve been actively living in my truth and values (yay therapy).

I’ve dealt with racism and microaggressions my entire life and career but never had the confidence to truly do something about it. The first time I actually said, “I will not be the Black token” and “I do not feel safe” was 15 months ago at my previous employment. I was so scared, that my voice shook, but I knew I had to stand up for myself. I was drowning mentally and emotionally but something shifted in my spirit the first time I said those words.

I believed in my talent and expertise so much that I just knew I would land on my feet. Did it hurt me financially to leave a job back then without a backup plan? Yes, it did, but I spoke MY truth. Now that I’ve done it once I can’t go back to being silent.

Existing in this country and in this skin has cracked my soul in ways I can’t fully verbalize. While it’s exhausting, I am becoming careful about protecting access to my energy. Who knew maintaining healthy boundaries would be difficult yet freeing at the same time?!

Though I continue to struggle with accepting this post-cancer body both externally and internally, I feel more confident to be unapologetically ME and stand up for myself in situations where no one else has the courage to do so.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Complexities of Grief and Joy

The complexities of grief and joy existing in the same space make me a tad uncomfortable and anxious. Though I’m usually an open book about everything, there were certain experiences from 2021 and the beginning part of this year that I couldn’t openly discuss without jeopardizing my career. I’ve moved forward into what I hope is a safer and more inclusive position professionally but the intense damage to my mental and emotional health are still struggling behind the smile and natural energy I show the world.

While having weekly therapy sessions has definitely put a dent in my bank account, they have been worth every cent and more. How do I know this? I’ve had over six people in the past two weeks tell me they can feel a difference in my energy. My face isn’t pinched. I’m not crying uncontrollably. My smiles are more genuine than not. These aren’t even people who know me on a deeper level either.

If I’m smiling and possess a bright aura, shouldn’t I be filled with immense joy and grief should be on the back burner? Well, yes and no.

The huge chunks of grief stem from “surviving” breast cancer and living in a country that doesn’t value people who look like me. Just when I think I’m over certain dreams that my breast cancer stole from me, I get hit with a hurtful wave of the reality of what is physically no longer possible, like kids. Is my grief irrational when I get irritated talking to friends on the phone who have toddlers that constantly interrupt the call? It’s not my place to say anything since I’m not a parent but it makes me irrationally irritated that I can’t have a conversation without them having to talk to their little one at the same time. Then it reminds me that I’ll never have those kinds of conversations with a mini-me or teach them how to say excuse me when I’m on the phone the way my mother taught me.

I’m also still reeling from the suicide of the former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst. She talked a lot about the microaggressions she experienced when practicing law on her TikTok. Daily microaggressions more often than not come from white people. They can truly harm a soul in a way that is so covertly insidious that half the time you think it’s all in your head. You blame yourself for being too sensitive and begin to doubt your intellectual ability and capacity to hold it together because you never want to let them see you cry and even show how much they’ve hurt you. Why are my Black tears never comforted or believed like white women’s tears?

While all this grief, hurt, and trauma continues to engulf me, I’m also filled with a different kind of joy that I’ve never experienced before.

I’m going to end here and will write more about this different kind of joy in a separate post because I want to spend time on the truly good things I’m manifesting.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

When You’re Not Considered Essential

I’ve been struggling with the term “essential” for the past few weeks. I have a visceral reaction each time I hear it on the news or read it on social media. In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, I was deemed unessential by my former employer and unessential by my medical team. I didn’t realize how much I want to be classified as an “essential” person.

As I wrote in my previous blog post, I was laid off on April 3rd, and it was a shock. I never once thought I was in danger of losing my job and had considered my skills and talent essential. The coldness and dismissive way I was laid off has done a number on my psyche.

Since I’m not on any post-treatment medications for my breast cancer, my oncologist said I only need to see him in-person once a year. My body is intolerant of ALL post-treatment medications at this time. I was told I fall into a category of women whose body just cannot tolerate anything currently on the market. My breast cancer surgeon wants to see me every six months for scans. Once again, I feel like a little pink fish tossed out into sea in the middle of swarming great white sharks. How long will I float before I get bitten with metastatic cancer?

If the corporate world and medical world don’t think I’m essential, then how should I classify myself?

I look at my spreadsheet that lists all my medical bills (yes; I keep a spreadsheet) and think they have no trouble taking my money and calling me during a pandemic asking for payment. I guess my money or lack thereof is essential but not my body.

I fully admit my depression and anxiety is swinging like a monkey at a jungle gym. I have way too many unknowns happening in my life. I can handle one but not multiple. Trying to stay motivated and some days are tougher than others. If I’m not considered essential, then what is my purpose?

Well, when I get too stuck in my head, I need to DO something to give the illusion that I’m essential. So, I went grocery shopping with my mother (she paid since I’m unemployed) and bought food to deliver to St. Andrew Catholic Church so they can give it to St. Vincent de Paul’s food bank, and delivered food to a the women’s shelter The Drake House. I felt this surge of energy and felt essential in doing something kind. I can’t bare to think of people and children going hungry at any time but especially during an economic shutdown.

Then I felt essential again yesterday as I led a 15-minute session about writing to feel and heal at the GRYT Cancer and Mental Health Summit online. I had so much fun preparing for it all week and then to talk about my struggles and how writing helps gauge my mental health was hugely cathartic. If what I said resonated with at least two people, then mission accomplished.

I have no idea what this week will bring. Here’s what’s running through my head right now.

Will I get a job interview?

Will my true purpose be revealed to me?

Will I get a job doing what I genuinely love that doesn’t deplete my soul?

Will my unemployment funds miraculously show up in my back account since I can’t get a human on the phone at the department of labor?

Hopefully, I can find something to do that will make me feel essential this week and keep the thick veil of depression and anxiety from suffocating me.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie